Will New Jersey’s New Law Really Help Prevent Distracted Driving Accidents and Fatalities?

Distracted Driving It only takes a moment – one unexpected phone call; the giggle of your child in the back seat; an accident on the road ahead – and your life can change forever. Whether unintentional or otherwise, driver distraction affects us all.


New Jersey Distracted Driving

In the last few months, New Jersey has been cracking down on driver distraction, which it defines as “any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.” Distracted driving includes doing any of the following while operating a motor vehicle:

  • Texting;
  • Using a cell phone;
  • Eating and drinking;
  • Talking to your passengers;
  • Reading, and/or
  • Adjusting your radio or music player.

New Jersey law already prohibits the use of a cell phone or electronic device while driving unless utilized in a hands-free capacity. However, recent New Jersey proposed legislation would drastically broaden the criminal definition of “distracted driving.”


Proposed Distracted Driving Legislation

This year, a bill was introduced to the New Jersey Assembly that would criminalize “any activity unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle” if such activity interferes with safety.  With this rather subjective standard in place, police officers would be free to determine what interfering “with the safe operation of the vehicle” really means.  Further, any drivers found to be in violation of this new bill would be subject to a fine anywhere from $200-$800. But the question remains, will the criminalization of all distracted driving activity actually reduce the number of distracted driving related accidents and fatalities in New Jersey each year? Will the mother cease to respond to the cries of her child as a result of this proposed legislation? Probably not, but she may find herself with a hefty fine.


Effect of Proposed Legislation

Few, if any, drivers find themselves intentionally distracted while on the road, and no one anticipates that his or her morning coffee might turn into a criminal offense. Accordingly, it is unlikely that criminalizing general driver distraction will have much effect on daily driver activities. In the first place, the language of the proposed legislation is relatively broad, which will permit an open interpretation of the bill by both drivers and law enforcement officials. Second, what might cause distraction to one person, such as eating or drinking on the road, may be second nature to a professional driver.


Contact an Experienced Traffic Attorney with Questions

Under this new bill, you may face substantial penalties for engaging in behavior you might not consider distracting. It is unlikely this proposed legislation will help prevent distracted driving accidents and fatalities, but it may help New Jersey’s bottom line while eating into your own. If you have questions or concerns related to this proposed legislation, schedule a free consultation with David W. Polsky Law by calling (973) 686-9787 today.